This morning someone sent me a message that will easily win the prize for the Most Infuriating Thing of the Week. It was a link to a Facebook group for people who resent their children and regret having them. I won’t link to it here. I’m sure you can find it if you’re motivated. It looks to be a somewhat recent page and it already has over 200 members. Keep in mind, when you join a Facebook group, the information is public. This means that these people’s own kids can plainly see that mommy and/or daddy joined the “I have an eternal grudge against my children” club. But I have to assume if you’re willing to go on the Internet and announce your deep resentment of your own offspring to the entire world, you’ve probably already told them yourself, or made your feelings towards them evident through the way you parent, or fail to parent, them. Whatever the case, the existence of such a group is about as revolting as it is unsurprising. Our society has long since dedicated itself to retrieving the darkest, ugliest, most selfish and insidious things from the abysmal bowels of the human psyche, and, putting them out in the open, in the bright lights, attempting to dress them in the flimsy guise of “honesty.” In reality, it’s got nothing to do with being honest. In fact, quite the opposite. It’s an attempt to lie to ourselves and each other by trying to make the hideous thing acceptable or — even better — laudable.
I’m not ready to call this “I hate my kids and I’m not afraid to say it” thing a trend, but the evidence is piling up. A few months ago a woman penned an “editorial” in the Daily Mail where she detailed her regrets about having children. She identified her kids by name, and proceeded to call them parasites and ungrateful burdens. Then, a few weeks later, a guy wrote a piece for a parenting website where he described his displeasure with the fact that he and his wife were having twins. Among other things, he said he considered aborting one of them — just for the sake of convenience — and, having decided against it, now resents the one they chose not to kill.
In the midst of this, my wife was pregnant with our own twins. Most of the comments we heard from strangers were positive and encouraging. But that didn’t negate the many overtly negative and discouraging remarks from other parents. It’s one thing to pass some realistic and helpful wisdom along to an expecting couple, it’s quite another to take your own failures and disappointments and hoist them onto strangers in an effort to drag others into the darkness of your own pitiful narcissism. I had more than one person tell me that the first month of twins would be “the worst four weeks of my life.” Which is another way of saying, “Hey, person I don’t know, I floundered under the weight of what you are about to experience, therefore you definitely will also.” Well, for the record, we’re coming up on one month of newborn twins. It wasn’t my worst month ever. In fact, without hesitation or exaggeration, I can say it was my best month. Challenging, tiring, and stressful, yes, but also exciting, joyful, and beautiful. You know what else? We watched a movie last week. Seriously. We did it. A long one, too. It was like two and a half hours. And you know what else? We get sleep. Not as much as we used to, and not the most restful sleep, but we sleep. And it’s not because we’re lucky or blessed with the most peaceful and cooperative infants of all time. Far from it. Luke has the temperament of a normal baby, while Julia has the temperament of a normal spider monkey. I say that with love, of course. I’ve always been a fan of spider monkeys. My wife and I can handle it. Alissa is a superhero, and I do what I can to hold up my end of the bargain.
We look out for each other’s sanity. We make sure the other gets time to rest and relax. I stay up late with the kids so my wife can get some sleep in peace. She wakes up to feed them in the middle of the night, so I can sleep and have enough energy to work in the morning. Yesterday, she went to get a pedicure and a massage. Later in the afternoon, I went to the bookstore and read books about the Civil War for a few hours. Then at night we ate dinner and enjoyed our children together. It was a great day. There have been some really hard days and some even harder nights, but so what? Is life all about avoiding hardships and avoiding sacrifice and avoiding challenges? Is that the point of this whole thing? Avoidance? Who can avoid discomfort the most consistently, is that the great competition of human existence? For the love of God, I’m a 27 year old community college dropout, and even I know better. Why are so many smart and “educated” people in this country so damned blind, stupid and shallow?
And that’s what brings us back to this Facebook group. They spend their whole lives regretting what they left behind, while oblivious to what they’ve been given. And what did they leave behind, anyway? What have any of us parents left behind? TV time? Spending cash? A little extra sleep? Yeah, I guess. And, believe me, sometimes I’d like to have those things. But they absolutely pale in comparison to what we’ve gained. And that’s not some sunshine-up-your-rear, sugar coated nonsense, that’s the truth. Now that my home is full of life and love, I could never wish for the days when it was full of free time and empty space. I’ve heard parents complain that they don’t like being defined by their role as a parent. They say they’re “losing their identity.” Well, I’ve got news for you: All things are defined by their relationship to other things. That’s not just the reality of parenting, that’s the reality of reality. It strikes me that the people who don’t want to be defined by their relationship to their children and their ability to fulfill their children’s needs, have no problem, and in fact desire to be defined by something much more banal and unextraordinary, like their relationship to their coworkers and their ability to fulfill the demands of their employer. One of these identities reduces the individual to a faceless and dispensable cog in the system, the other elevates the individual to a giver and protector of life. I’ll let you decide which is which.
Wishing you weren’t a parent is to wish your child was never born. Wishing your child was never born is no better than wishing death on him. In fact, it’s worse in some ways. To want your kid dead is horrible and evil, to want him to never have been born is to pine for the negation of his entire existence. It means you want to wipe all traces of him out of your life and out of the whole universe. All so you can go on more vacations and sleep a little more soundly at night. I pray for those who feel this way. But even more importantly, I pray for the children whom they conceived and have now forsaken.